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Should I retake GRE? (History)


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I know this question gets asked a lot, but I would appreciate some advice.

I'm not a native speaker and my GRE score are 157 for both V&Q (73% & 75%), and 4 on AWA (which is 49% and sucks very much).

My overall GPA is about 3.5, and last two years something like 3.6 (I did my undergrad at a 1-100 scale university, so it's hard to be exact).

I got 119 on the TOEFL (if that makes any difference).

Two of my recommenders are big names in my field. All three know me well enough to write a strong letter.

I have research experience in the field that I'm applying to (twice with a scholarship), and I am a native speaker and a fluent speaker of the two languages that are important for my work.

I wasn't happy with my GRE scores and registered to retake. As I'm now studying for the test again, I realize that any improvement will be a mild one (unless I'm extremely lucky). I'm asking myself whether it is worthwhile to try again, or whether it will be a better idea to invest that time in perfecting my SOP and writing sample. Of course, there's always the chance of getting an even lower grade than the first one.

I'm applying at 10 different universities. My top choice is the history department at Chicago University. I'm contacting POI's at every university, and so far the responses have been good (the professor that I would prefer to work with the most wants to meet face to face).

What would you do in my position (besides burning down ETS)?


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  • 2 months later...

Hello Sheer! 


I understand your concerns. I am also an international student with a different scale of GPA who also sat for GRE and TOEFL. My first results were similar to yours in Q and V, but I did worse in AW (I did a course but they did not trained us very well, they only told us what the exam was about). Since I was doubtful about my scores, I asked the professors I had contacted in Graduate Schools. All of them suggested to sit for GRE again. 


Let me put it this way: we historians are going to write a lot thus our logical thinking is important and should impress the committee. I would sit for it again. I did. I hired a private teacher who trained me a lot and did better in all sections. Moreover, it helped me with my writing sample, since the original was not in English. 


I hope this helps! Where are you applying? Maybe we are future fellow students! :)


All the best!!!!!!



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Practice, practice, practice and retake.


If you're serious about UChicago, I think you need much higher verbal and AW scores to be competitive, or at least to ensure that the GRE doesn't hinder you.


Aside from focused vocab practice (matching up/memorizing synonyms seems like the best tactic for the current GRE format), I suggest picking up Princeton Review's Cracking the GRE. It has great tips all around, especially for AW.


Peruse the ETS site, too. Randomly pick a few AW topics and write timed essays. Brainstorm specific examples for the 10 or so overarching essay themes as well.


Also, Barron's book called Six Practice Tests is on par with the GRE's difficulty; I found it immensely helpful for both quant and verbal practice, and it's straightforward and cheap.


Good luck!

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If you have professors who want to work with you, than you really don't need to worry about your GRE scores. You are doing exactly the right thing in building relationships with potential mentors and I would aggressively follow up on any interest shown by professors at the schools you're interested in. I have seen people with embarrassingly low GRE scores and unimpressive GPAs get accepted to Berkeley and other top grad programs based simply on a single professor communicating a desire to work with the applicant to the AdCom. Other factors -- like publications, a spectacular writing sample, awards, having a recommender call a friend at universities you are applying to -- also can trump GRE scores and GPA.


Of course, there is no harm in doing both -- making connections and retaking the test. But ultimately, a good connection with a professor can accomplish far more for you than a higher GRE score can.


Good luck!

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